In Freddy vs. Jason, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees face off — razor-glove vs. machete — in a slasher clash of the titans. That 2003 neo-horror classic provided the inspiration for Friday on Elm Street, the long-anticipated collaboration from Fabolous and Jadakiss. In the film, the slasher kings fight to the death, with Jason seen carrying Freddy’s laughing, severed head as a trophy at the end. Thankfully, the relationship between the two New York City rappers is anything but adversarial.
“It was real organic. Not nothing force-fed, just working with your homie,” says Jadakiss, slouching on a sofa in the newly renovated lobby of Def Jam Records in midtown. The Yonkers native — born Jason Phillips — has long been drawn to the star of Friday the 13th. On Halloween, he donned Jason’s trademark hockey mask, while Brooklyn native Fabolous (born John David Jackson) rocked Freddy’s ratty, striped sweater from the Nightmare on Elm Street series.
“We wanted,” says Jadakiss, “to put out a project that felt good to both of us.” Both MCs are glued to their respective phones, looking up, intermittently, to make a point or to underscore the other’s assertions. When lunch from Serafina arrives, Fabolous digs into the Jumbo Shrimps al Cognac, while Jadakiss goes to work on a classic Margherita pizza. After painstakingly trying to cut slices with a plastic fork and knife — he says he wants to be polite — he gets fed up and tears through the crust with his hands.
Friday on Elm Street has been a long time in the making. Fabolous and Jadakiss first collaborated on the remix to the former’s “Keepin’ It Gangsta” in 2003. At the time, Fab was riding the commercial high of his second album, Street Dreams, and its hit singles “Can’t Let You Go” (featuring Lil’ Mo and Mike Shorey) and “Into You” (featuring Tamia), both of which hit No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Jadakiss, meanwhile, was carving out a solo niche. He transitioned from a group member in the Lox — a marquee group at Sean “Diddy” Combs’s Bad Boy Records that went on to ink a deal alongside DMX at Ruff Ryders and, later, start its own label, D-Block — to lead artist with 2001’s gold-certified Kiss Tha Game Goodbye.
As young MCs they rose up through the city’s hip-hop scene at the same time, recording in the same studios, partying in the same nightclubs. But they can’t pinpoint when, exactly, they first crossed paths. “The hip-hop industry was smaller then,” says Fabolous. “You’d see the same people at [clubs like] the Tunnel, or studios: Sony Studios, the Hit Factory. I think we met one of those times.” Whenever it was, Fab’s clever wordplay found a natural foil in Jada’s raspy, rugged flow, and the two went on to team up several times throughout their careers, including on 2011’s “B.E.T.,” 2012’s “Respect It,” and 2013’s “The Hope.”
In February 2016, the duo first announced plans to join forces on a full-length project, then called Freddy vs. Jason. At the time, Fabolous envisioned enlisting some of hip-hop’s heaviest hitters to produce. “On paper, I wanted ‘Kiss and Fab produced by Just Blaze.’ That was the mind-set I was into when we first started,” he says. “We gotta get Just [Blaze]. Let’s go get Alchemist, Harry Fraud…” That proved logistically difficult.
“For you and all the consumers that see this interview: Those kind of projects take much longer than this one,” says Jadakiss. “The ‘names’ take a long time to get. It’s a process.” There’s also the fact that big-name producers usually come with a big price tag. “You gotta get their bag that matches your bag.”
With the exception of Swizz Beatz, the producers the rappers recruited — including Grade A, Mark Henry, and Ted Smooth — were relatively untested. “It was a great opportunity to give new producers. We live in a generation where it’s about who got ‘it’ and not just a ‘name’ anymore,” says Fabolous. “We worked with guys who usually don’t get a chance.” Grade A, who created the track “Ground Up,” was originally Jadakiss’s workout partner. “I knew him from the gym,” says Jada. “Then, I invited him to the studio one day and he had some beats. One of the joints he played, I was like, ‘Stash that one.’ ”
Despite their parallel career trajectories and personal friendship, the rappers have distinct lifestyles. At 42 years old, Jadakiss likes to go to the gym, and treats recording more like a job. He considers himself a “big bro” to the 40-year-old Fabolous, who prefers all-nighters. So compromise was key. “To make the project work, we were both flexible,” says Jadakiss with a laugh. “He can stay in the studio for days straight. But just because that’s not how I like to work, doesn’t mean I can’t work late at night.”
“We love hip-hop, man,” says Fabolous, summing up their bond.
“We love to do it,” adds Jadakiss. “We are blessed to be able to do it for this long. We do it for New York.”